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Apple changes course on right to repair; extends some rights to consumers for certain products

WASHINGTON, DC — In an encouraging step forward for the right to repair, Apple today announced that it will provide customers with access to parts, tools, and manuals necessary to repair their own Apple products. Initially this access will apply only to the iPhone 12 and 13 models, but according to the announcement, Apple plans to next expand repair access for Macs with M1 chips.

This is a significant shift for Apple, which, like many other manufacturers, has long resisted right to repair legislation. And earlier this month, iFixit discovered that self-repair of broken iPhone 13 screens fully disabled Face ID, meaning that consumers who repaired their own broken screens, or had them repaired by an independent third party, could no longer use their phones. (Several days later, after it became public, Apple promised to eliminate that software booby trap).

“This is welcome news for consumers,” said Maureen Mahoney, senior policy analyst at Consumer Reports. “New phones are expensive, and people who buy them should be able to repair them, or have them fixed by the servicer of their choice — and not be forced to throw them away and get a new one. This is an encouraging step in that direction.”

“This is a good step, but it needs to go further, and it needs to become an industry requirement,” said George Slover, senior policy counsel at Consumer Reports. “Right to repair needs to apply across the board, to all electronics-enabled consumer products, and without unreasonable restrictions that undercut these rights.”

Consumer Reports has long supported the right to repair. CR has developed model legislation with allies in the right-to-repair effort. This legislation has gained support in a number of states, and on the federal level, as manufacturers have made it difficult to take care of what should be simple repairs on their expensive devices. These manufacturers have restricted access to basic diagnostic information, tools, and replacement parts needed to make those repairs. These tactics force consumers to rely on the manufacturer and its hand-picked servicers. Without competition and choice, repair costs get inflated, and the process can be more inconvenient than it needs to be. Sometimes the manufacturer even refuses to repair the product at all, forcing the consumer to throw it away and buy a new one. This year, right-to-repair bills have been introduced in 27 states.

In addition to supporting similar bills at the federal level and in states around the country, Consumer Reports has incorporated the right to repair into the Digital Standard, a set of best practices that CR uses to evaluate the privacy and security of software, digital platforms and services, and internet-connected products, as well as to help influence the design of these products.

Apple’s announcement is the latest in a series of important developments for the right to repair. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a landmark report, Nixing the Fix, which explores how repair restrictions hurt consumers, particularly low-income consumers and communities of color, and unanimously adopted a policy statement, vowing to step up enforcement of right-to-repair violations. And this summer, the New York State Senate advanced the Digital Fair Repair Act, S. 4104, also based on CR’s model legislation, becoming the first legislative body in the United States to pass such a measure. 

Contact: Cyrus Rassool, cyrus.rassool@consumer.org